Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Litvinenko Story Just Got Stranger

I'm sure that you remember Alexander Litvinenko- he was the ex-KGB spy who was poisoned to death using polonium-210. He signed a statement on his deathbed that it was the work of Putin and his ex-KGB cronies.

Well, one of said cronies has stepped up.

He's blaming Britain.

Andrei Lugovoi, the Russian accused by the UK of murdering Alexander Litvinenko has claimed he has evidence that British intelligence was involved in the poisoning of the former KGB officer.

Mr Lugovoi said he believed the UK intelligence services or Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian tycoon, were more likely suspects in Litvinenko's death last November than he was.

In a dramatic 90-minute press conference in Moscow, Mr Lugovoi alleged that both Litvinenko and Mr Berezovsky worked for UK intelligence. He also said that British agents had tried to recruit him to collect compromising material on Russian president Vladimir Putin...

...He said he was being made a "scapegoat" for the murder by the UK, and that traces of polonium found in various locations visited by him and Mr Kovtun had been put there to incriminate them.

Mr Lugovoi is himself a former KGB officer who now runs security and consumer goods businesses in Russia. He alleged Litvinenko had told him he was working for MI6, but said he believed the exiled Russian may have fallen out with his handlers.

"I cannot escape the thought that Litvinenko was an agent who had got out of control and they got rid of him," he said. Asked if he had evidence of British intelligence involvement, Mr Lugovoi responded "I have," but refused to elaborate.
I personally find it a little unlikely that both Litvinenko and Berezovsky were British intelligence assets. It's not totally out of the realm of possibility, though. MI6 were (and likely still are) masters at "Humint", and there's really no more desireable source than one within the other guy's intelligence agency. I'm sure that if they could have gotten Litvinenko to turn during the cold war, they would have.

But I still find this story unlikely. It's too convenient, especially with the inclusion of Berezovsky as another supposed plant. The manner of poisoning is also more consistent with the Russians than the Brits, who could probably be counted on to find something a little more, well, subtle.

What's more intriguing is that this guy may be lying on behalf of his superiors, instead of just for himself. If he was told to say it was the UK, then that's a huge, huge indicator of exactly how bad things have gotten between the West and Russia. The accusation would set Anglo-Russian relations back a good deal, as the UK (justifiably) gets miffed that Putin is trying to foist blame back on them.

As they say, "more as it develops."

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